Kory Cool’s passion for running isn’t limited to coaching.
Cool, the head coach of Manhattan High’s track and field program, is an avid marathon runner. And not only does he run — he wins.
Cool has competed in 41 races, placing first in 13 of them.
Despite his many victories, Cool isn’t sure the kids he coaches are even aware of his success.
“Most of my athletes don’t even know that I run anymore,” said Cool, who led the boys’ team to the Class 6A state title in 2018, “and if I told them that, they probably wouldn’t take me seriously.”
His first marathon was in 2007, but Cool said he discovered his love for distance running long before that. In 2001, Cool’s eighth-grade year, he joined the track team at Anthony Middle School. In his first practice with the distance team, Cool completed his workout so fast his coach couldn’t believe it.
“I was the first guy in from practice that day, and it was my first day doing distance,” Cool said. “My coach, Nancy Pujol, was convinced I took a shortcut. I tried telling her, ‘I didn’t take a shortcut; I’m pretty sure I ran the right route.’”
When the first meet of year came around, Cool’s coaches put him in the two-mile. Cool immediately made a name for himself.
“I won and broke the school record,” Cool said. “I think at that point (Pujol) believed me (when I said) that I ran the right route that day in practice.”
Cool said the instant success of his first race cemented his love for running.
“That was it. I jumped into the two-mile, won and broke a school record. After that, I was hooked,” Cool said. “It was fun, but then I wanted to lower it and lower it and lower it. I had to learn early on that not every race is going to be my best.”
That same mindset is what keeps Cool running today.
“If I go run a marathon, let’s say next weekend and it doesn’t go very well, I’m going to go jump in another one a week after that,” Cool said. “I had a stretch in 2014 where I ran three marathon PRs (personal records) in a four-week period of time.”
Competing in marathons as often as Cool takes plenty of preparation. Cool said his personal running odometer — he started in 2003 — is nearing the 50,000-mile mark.
“It’s at 49,814 right now,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to comprehend when you look at it that way. Basically, I’ve ran about an hour a day for 6,000 days.”
Staying so active in marathon running in his free time, Cool said, helps him connect with the athletes he coaches.
“I don’t run with them a lot, but it’s more of a way for me to relate to them and keep in tune better with what they’re doing,” he said. “I can communicate better with them on how they should do things if I am doing it.”
In Cool’s mind, his signature performance was an Indianapolis marathon in 2015. Cool ran his personal record, finishing in 2 hours, 27 minutes. But the personal-record time doesn’t double as his favorite event.
“I like going to Colorado and winning marathons up there,” he said. “If you look at me, I don’t look like the typical marathon runner. So, when they see me and know that I’m from Kansas, it’s kind of nice going up there and winning.”
Colorado has been kind to Cool: He won the Fort Collins marathon in 2014, and set the current course record of the Aspen marathon on his way to another victory in 2017.
The next marathon Cool plans to compete is next month. On July 13, Cool will return for the third year in a row to compete in the Aspen marathon.
He doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
“Everybody is going to enjoy something that they are good at,” Cool said. “You’re going to take it as far as you want to take it. That’s probably why I’m still doing it — I enjoy it. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy pushing myself to see how far I can take it.”